Background and Context

What is the Role of the Course in Saint Vincent College's Undergraduate Curriculum?

Chemistry of Daily Life is a course specifically designed to help nonscience majors fulfill the natural sciences component of the College's core curriculum. In the fall of 1999, the College began a process to consider if any changes should be made in the College's core curriculum. Natural sciences faculty, who had been meeting on a regular basis for two years to discuss common concerns, asked themselves what understanding of science every Saint Vincent student should graduate with. Over a period of several months, faculty members worked together to identify over 50 specific learning objectives grouped under five broader goals (copies available from team leader). These objectives covered a wide range of areas including critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, fundamental concepts in various disciplines, the process of scientific discovery, and the impact of science on society and the human condition. The natural science goal within the core curriculum was revised to include understanding "the impact science has had on daily life and the human condition." In addition, one of the characteristics of scientific literacy specified in this goal included the ability to "evaluate the impact science has had on the human condition." This explicit emphasis on helping students better understand the impact of science on their lives represented a major addition to the natural sciences component of the core curriculum.

In the fall of 2001 the faculty at Saint Vincent approved a revised core curriculum that included the changes in the natural sciences goal described above. To achieve this goal, all students are required to complete one course with lab from each of two tiers of courses. The first tier (tier 1) is composed of foundation courses, each of which must broadly address our goals within the context of the course subject, and integrate chemistry, physics and biology. Completion of a first tier course is a prerequisite for all second tier courses. The second tier (tier 2) courses are more focused and in depth, and will require the students to apply the skills and content developed in first tier courses.

Chemistry of Daily Life is classified as a Tier 2 course, provided more in depth exposure to chemistry.

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